(Bear pictured here with her best buddy/cousin in their matching STEWART T-Shirts)
Everything you read about parenting says encourage kids to be creative and use their imaginations. My question is; when has it gone too far? Here is the reason for asking. Bear (now 3 ½ years old) has two imaginary friends Stewart and Dunkin. Anyone who knows Bear knows who I’m talking about. Stewart and Dunkin are imaginary donkeys (pink donkeys to be specific). And they have been in our family for almost 2 years. It sounds weird I’m sure…Stewart came into our family first after a ride to church and we passed a farm with four of the cutest little donkeys. That sealed the deal, Stewart was born. Dunkin arrived a little later as we were telling bedtime stories and needed to create an imaginary friend for Bear’s Best Friend, D.
I would say that we have fed into this Imaginary Donkey thing – for example, we drop them off for play dates at the little farm on our way to church. We have been known to set a place setting for Stewart. Even I laughed when my husband pulled the car over on the side of the road, opened his door and yelled; “Come on Stewart, hustle and get in the car.”
A recent story about Stewart that made us all stop and chuckle was during our second move-in day in Atlanta. We had just spent our first night in our new Georgia home, we were surrounded by boxes, working feverishly to unpack and get settled. Early the next morning as the unpacking ritual was underway – Bear announces, “Guys, today is a really special day – It’s STEWART’S BIRTHDAY!!” We all stopped and looked at her. “Really?” Stewart has been in our family for two years, has never celebrated a birthday – and today (of all days) is Stewart’s birthday. Well…Fabulous! That means tonight we will have cake, because no Lefko Birthday should go un-celebrated. Bear was tickled by the fact that we celebrated his birthday. So, as any 3-year-old would do – the next morning she announced; “And TODAY is a special day, It’s Dunkin’s Birthday!” Sorry, only leftovers for Dunkin.
We love the imagination and we encourage it. On many occasions we will remind Bear that Stewart isn’t real and we can’t see him, but it’s fun to make-believe. (For example we really don’t need a plane ticket for Stewart, nor do we have to tell the ticketing agent about him.) Sure, it can be a little awkward when Bear tells strangers, friends or even her teachers about Stewart – and they give a questioning look at her - then us. Our entire extended family knows Stewart, and even on occasions will call and ask Bear how Stewart is adjusting to the South? Oh well, she’s three and she confidently talks about her imaginary friends.
So when will it end or when should it end? I was having a long conversation with Ali (our dreamer and believer) about it. She is majoring in Psychology (and the Lefkos are her thesis – I’m guessing) and she knows Bear and Stewart all too well. Her opinion is a good one, she believes Stewart will disappear when Bear gets embarrassed by the peculiar looks or laughs when she talks about these make-believe donkeys to her friends. We all believe that won’t be happening anytime soon given Bear’s confidence and love for Stewart.
Have we taken it too far? I’m going to answer my own question with…we all love to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny – why not a pink donkey named Stewart?